One of rock-’n’-roll’s founding fathers gets full and loving treatment in this biography from music journalist Coleman.
In the 1950s and ’60s, Antoine “Fats” Domino helped usher in rock-’n’-roll with galvanizing numbers like “Ain’t that a Shame,” “Blueberry Hill,” “Going Home” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” Along with such contemporaries as Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry (the author also credits the influence of Joe Turner, Roy Brown and Louis Jordan), Domino brought the big beat to recognition, adding the distinctively swinging sound of his native New Orleans. Take that beat, touch it with “the heartache of the blues and the hope of gospel,” infuse it with lyrics that celebrate a passion for life, and you’ve got a sound that proved to be “ground zero for integration,” writes Coleman. He fully explores rock’s African-American roots, particularly rhythm and blues, call and response, piano triplets and the offbeats that Domino loved. Well before the British Invasion reintroduced African-American music to white American audiences, Domino had been the harbinger: he crashed a host of mainstream venues (Steve Allen, Ed Sullivan and Dick Clark, for starters) and played everywhere from the Apollo to all-white clubs. He was proud that his subversive, sensual music caused riots. Coleman covers all the gigs, all the dazzling band members and all their various travails with booze, egos, drugs and gambling. Domino and his cohorts were epic figures, but they were human, enthusiastic participants in the pleasures their music celebrated. The biography ends on a lovely last, lingering note: Domino survived Katrina and the destruction of his beloved Ninth Ward; he now lives across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, quietly with family and piano.
Fats perches with rightful ease atop his pedestal.